Remember how the IDF likes to stress it had constant legal advice throughout the Gaza war? Remember also how Defence Minster Ehud Barak and chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi are adamantly opposed to an independent state commission of inquiry? Check out where it comes together: According to a piece published in the media section of news portal Walla (owned by the Haaretz group), the opposition to an independent inquiry stems at least in part from the fact that four brigade commanders who “ran the war” didn’t get any legal briefing whatsoever.
The piece itself is about the Independent publishing a story shelved by Yedioth Ahronot, on changed rules of engagement during the operation. Here is the Walla piece in full; note the final paragraph.
“Independent runs story shelved by Yedioth”Yedioth Ahronoth shelved an investigative feature that included incriminating testimonies by IDF officers and soldiers, on rules of engagement during Operation Cast Lead. Parts of the investigation are published today on the front page of The Independent. According to the Independent, Yedioth interviewed a high-ranking officer who served as a commander during the operation. The officer disclosed to the paper that rules of engagement with the Palestinian population were changed for the three weeks operation to minimise risk to soldiers. He said that during the operation, he didn’t regard as implementable the principle of “means and intentions”, which states that a weapon and an intention to use it to attack had to be identified before targeting a suspect. Another officer defined the new policy enacted in the Gaza Strip as one of zero risk to soldiers.The Independent said that the officer’s statements could add to the pressure on prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set up an independent inquiry commission on the operation, as recommended by the Goldstone report. Walla Branja had learned that the investigative feature for which the officer was interviewed was ready for print as early as 5 months ago.Yedioth Ahronoth spoke to a number of soldiers who served in sensitive positions during operation Cast Lead, who rejected the main claim of the Goldstone report, that of the IDF deliberately putting Palestinian civilian population at risk. However, according to the quotes used in the Independent, most of the soldiers agreed that the rules were flexible enough to enable a policy under which, as one soldier said, “if you see any signs of movement at all, you shoot.”Walla Branja had learned that Yedioth Ahronoth began working on the feature for its 7 Days supplement in July, completing it for publication by September. A photographer was sent by the newspaper, and the soldiers who were interviewed were promised that the story will be going to print. 7 Days editor Gadi Blum refused to comment to Walla Branja on why the feature was shelved. Yedioth Ahronoth also did not respond to a similar query by the Independent.A source which assisted the newspaper in the preparation of the feature told Walla Branja today: “Soldiers who were serving in sensitive position described airborne fire at unarmed suspects, including usage of pilotless drones. This information was cross-checked with the IDF.” The source said that the British newspaper only published parts of the investigation, leaving out, for instance, the fact that the high-ranking officer’s testimony was cross-checked, and passed on to sources in the Military Advocate-General’s office, who explained that what he said contradicted his instructions.According to the source, the most important information was unearthed when trying to establish how come the IDF response does not match the instructions of the Military Advocate-General. “It turned out that brigade commanders, like that high-ranking officer, were not briefed by the Advocate-General. Effectively, the war was run by four brigade commanders who did not get legal briefing, and this fact alone can explain the opposition of the defence minister to setting up an independent commission of inquiry.”